Hello there! Come on in, sit down, grab a cuppa something. The weather here this past week has ranged from single digits to the 70’s. Seriously. No wonder the weatherman can’t get it right. Right now it’s very late (or very early, depending on how you look at it. Just past midnight. But I need to get this post out, so y’all don’t miss anything. 🙂
Last weekend, I lost a dear neighbor and friend, Judy. Judy had heart surgery, and just couldn’t bounce back like she usually did. Instead, she trampolined to Jesus. I’ve been running over to her place several times a day to care for her animals. (Shh! They don’t know they’re not people!) 😉
My younger daughter and I were privileged to sing at Judy’s funeral. We thought we were only singing “Amazing Grace”. When I saw all we would be singing, I was very grateful for several things. First, the honor of being trusted to sing it all. Second, that I’d sung at my own church for Mass exactly twice before, so I wasn’t totally lost to start with. Third, that I was a music major in college, and could sight-read well. Finally, a few weeks ago, I got a wild hare to learn Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’. It’s just a really pretty song, and I wanted to learn it ‘in case I could use it sometime in the future’. God has a sense of humor, I suppose. I sang one verse of the Ave, as well, at the funeral. God had it all planned before any of us had a clue.
One piece of the service was the Psalm and response, Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd… set to music with some poetic liberty taken to the words. It became a prayer on a much deeper level for me.
The words to the response go like this: “Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”
I gotta make a confession here – my Lenten observance is not happening. I mean, the three things that I was going to do simply are not being done. I was to get back on my healthy diet, spend a mere 15 minutes a day on my exercise bike, and get to bed at a decent hour. It wasn’t about weight loss, but about discipline. I was getting upset with myself, and begging God for grace to get with the program.
Then a good friend said this: “You’re already doing so much extra! Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re getting up earlier, you’re taking care of Judy’s animals several times a day. You’re learning and singing unfamiliar music. You’re getting ready for your daughter to come up and sing with you. You’re having text conversations with Judy’s daughter late in the evening (around 11-ish). And I know you’re praying more than you were… if that’s even possible.”
So, what does all this have to do with the Psalm? Plenty.
Shepherd me, O God… I need someone looking out for me. I need the rod and the staff to reinforce me when I don’t have the discipline to do the right things, or to stay away from the wrong things.
…beyond my wants… I need Him to shepherd me through the deeper stuff of life; not just ‘gimme what I want, God. Answer this prayer or that prayer.’ I need Him to Shepherd me into a greater conversion to Himself, to be more like Him, to display His character and love for other people. I need a heart intent on one thing – Him – not split or vacillating between His truth and my own insatiable human desires for ease, comfort and pleasures.
…beyond my fears… I need Him to shepherd me through life in spite of the fears that come at me every day. Yes, I’m definitely living the dream! But there are still fears – uncertainties – decisions to make that will undoubtedly upset one side or the other. Sometimes I fear what He may ask of me; afraid it might cost me some comfort, some time, some effort.
… from death into life… I need Him to shepherd me away from things that bring death to me or those around me – I’m not talking about physical death. I’m talking about things that harm us spiritually, emotionally, mentally, in addition to possibly harming someone physically. I need Him to shepherd me into the things that truly bring life to myself and everyone around me – the heart of love shown in I Corinthians 13 comes to mind as an example.
So, there you have it. Do you need some ‘Shepherding’ of your own? Do you need an earthly ‘shepherd’ to help? Find a pastor or priest, they’ll be glad to listen and help with whatever it is you need.
Talk to you later!